Sunday, July 29, 2007
The old man shook my hand and said follow him, he was dressed in an old green camouflage uniform with the markings of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division (2/1) of the Iraqi Army; he seemed old enough to be my father, which given my age is saying something. We walked back outside into the oven that has now become Iraq in late July, the temp at 2:00 this afternoon is 121, we move to another building to the desk of a Marine Corps Sergeant. I tell him who I am and that I am looking for the Marine Corps Military Transition Team (MTT) Commander for 2/1, LtCol Fisher, “Follow me Sir” back to the oven and to another building, I am stuck by how young the Sergeant is compared to the Iraqi soldier who lead me to his desk, I wonder where do I fit in that equation?
I arrive at the office of LtCol Fisher, the head of the Marine Corps MTT attached to the Iraqi 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division; he has the unique challenge to help build the 2/1 of Iraqi Army into a force that can provide stability and security to their nation. A very difficult task given the best of circumstances. We discuss the problems encountered in his position, the troubles with the central government in Baghdad, the cultural differences and the interaction of his team of Marines and the Iraqi soldiers and how things are getting done. He is the right man for the job having been a military advisor for many years working with other countries military and training them to be more effective. The Corps has got the right man in place here with 2/1.
The LtCol’s job is critical to the future of Iraq and the eventual withdrawal of American troops. The Marines also have a unit called the Police Transition Teams (PTT) that work with the Iraqi police to get them up and running so they can assume a greater role in the stabilization and security of this war torn country. The Army and the police are the future of Iraq, and the Marines are working hand in hand with them to rebuild their country.
I also spent time this week with the director for the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), the office that oversees the MTT and PTT, a Marine Colonel who walked me through the ongoing actions of the MTT and PTT and what progress has been made. The situation has turned now to one of capacity, so many young Iraqi men are volunteering for the Police and Army forces it is now a problem of how to train them all and how quickly they can be integrated into the forces, a sure sign of improvements and success here.
The war is taking many turns now and it is not all trigger pulling that will be the end state of our engagement here, stabilization and rebuilding will be the measure at which we will depart I think.
There are dedicated teams such as the Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) joined with the Marines of the MTT and PTT that in my opinion will be the driving force for the war to come to some kind of closure. But make no mistake we are far from finished tracking down and killing Al Qaeda, and missions go on and people die daily. But we are also working on the future stabilization and security for the people of Iraq, and progress is being made out here in the western province.
I was able to attend a planning meeting for a future operation to be conducted by the Iraqi Police, Iraqi Army and the Marines. To watch all three working in unison with mutual respect and trust was interesting to watch, three different organizations but with a common goal and focus, kill Al Qaeda and return the cities to some sort normalcy with security and the inhabitants not living in fear. As I have been reporting for months now the changes happening here in Al Anbar and the spreading of the “Awakening” movement are sure signs of progress being made, I see it with my own eyes.
Pictures for this post: The first is of the senior members of the Marine MTT and of 2/1 to include BGen Ali Gaza (Third from left) and LtCol Fisher the MTT Commander (4th from left) from the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division of the Iraqi Army.
The second is of BGen Ali Gaza and Col Faisel the Chief of the Fallujah Police discussing details of a future operation.